DAY 74 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20


COVINGTON TO RANDOLPH

The road from Covington, Tennessee to Randolph, Tennessee was populated with dogs, barking and chasing us as we passed. They probably just wanted to say hello, but we couldn’t be sure so we picked up the pace to stay out of reach.

Our destination on this warm Friday in September was Chickasaw Bluff Number 2 at Randolph, Tennessee – a historical and natural wonder. The Chickasaw bluff is the high ground on the Tennessee side of the Mississippi River between Fulton and Memphis. It’s made up of four prominent bluffs that were named and numbered by the French as they headed down the Mississippi River through Chickasaw territory.

Whether the water is high or low, the river is always adjacent to the land at these four high spots. The bluffs were the perfect sites for forts and later for river towns. The view of the Mississippi River is breathtaking from here.

We landed at the “blue A-frame on the bluff” – you can’t miss it. And we didn’t. Our host for the day, Graydon Swisher, met us there and we launched into our exploration. The blue A-frame is owned by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, and it houses a small museum. Graydon walked us through the history of this community, from the early native populations who made their lives here, to the French explorers who came through on their search for the Northwest Passage (you’re a little off course, guys . . .), to the establishment of Randolph as a prominent river town – rivaling Memphis in size and importance.

The Civil War left its mark here, too. It’s the site of Fort Wright – a Confederate fortification and the first military training facility of the Confederate Army in Tennessee. We visited the old powder magazine (home now to bats and one enormous spider) and saw remnants of the earthen defenses and artillery batteries built to protect the fort from land and naval attacks.

The town of Randolph was destroyed by General Sherman and his troops in 1862 (and burned again by Federal troops in 1865). The railroad went to Memphis, the river changed course, and the city’s development stalled. Randolph today is a quiet community with a population hovering around 200. There’s a general store, boat dock and church. There are beautiful river views, a natural spring, deep ravines and lush forests. And Graydon’s dead SUV which needs a new starter . . .

The three of us hopped into the Relay van for a trip to Munford and interactions at the old log cabin that now houses the South Tipton County Chamber of Commerce. We were met by Amy Turnage and Rosemary Bridges who introduced us to Miss Mary Ballard and her daughter, Cookie. We gathered at the big table in the back room to talk.

The Ballard family has a long history in Randolph and still have property there. Mary and Cookie shared fond memories of past days in their hometown – days when there were more businesses and the community was bustling with activity. As they spoke of the past, there didn’t seem to be any sense of remorse or loss. Randolph is their home not because of businesses, economic vitality or material things. It’s people and family that matter – things that are still alive in Randolph today.

As we wrapped up in Munford, Tennessee, the Mayor arrived to get Graydon’s keys (the Mayor also runs the auto repair shop) and we set off for Millington. We dropped Graydon off at McDonalds where his wife would pick him up and drive home to Cordova while the new starter was being installed in his vehicle.

It was late when we arrived back in Munford to the Go Getaway Bed and Breakfastwhere we would spend the night. We were met by a nice young man named Joshua who signed us in. His mom, Chris, arrived home shortly after.

We only had time for quick introductions before heading upstairs to collapse for the night. Little did we know that Chris and her husband Isaac would become our new friends over breakfast in the morning.